WASHINGTON-- United Airlines CEO Jeff Smisek sees the aviation industry transforming to a profitable one thanks to fewer flights and higher fares.

Mergers have helped bring rationality to the market, Smisek told an aviation conference Thursday. For far too long, he said, too many airlines were chasing too few passengers.

In the past few years United and Continental have merged. So have Delta and Northwest, Southwest and AirTran and now American and US Airways.

Airlines are now run by professionals, looking to make a profit for shareholders, Smisek said. He added that airlines still face too many taxes, not enough support from the government and could benefit from a modern air traffic control system.

Despite rising prices he says flying today is still "an incredible bargain."

AP Airlines Writer